WHISTLER, British Columbia - Olympic champion Steven Holcomb claimed gold in the four-man bobsled World Cup competition Saturday on the 2010 Olympic track to solidify his title as fastest pilot in the world.
"It's always a nail biter coming back to defend a title," said Brian Shimer, men's bobsled head coach. "Tonight's win was a big feat on an unpredictable track like this. The first thing Holcomb said to me when I saw him after the race was, 'Phew.' This is new territory for the U.S. program. We're the team to beat and everyone wants to knock us off the top of the podium."
The 2009 World Cup champion has steered his sled with expert skill to the top of the podium week after week over the last four years leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, and entered this season with a target on his back.
"This race was more pressure than the Olympics," Holcomb said. "Everybody expects you to win, wondering if our Olympic win was a fluke. For me to come back and duplicate it nine months later is a relief. I was nervous after the mistakes I made in the two-man race, but I proved not only to everyone else, but to myself that we can keep winning."
Since Steve Mesler's retirement, team USA I welcomed powerhouse athlete Steve Langton to the crew. Langton and veteran standout push athletes Justin Olsen and Curt Tomasevicz teamed together to power Holcomb off the starting block with the fastest push times of the competition, 4.76 and 4.75 seconds.
"One of the highlights of the race was having Langton on our crew," Holcomb said. "He had some big shoes to fill with Mesler's absence, but we didn't skip a beat. This was the first time we've pushed together in a race, so I can't even imagine how well we'll push together in another three years."
Holcomb maintained the tempo from the start and gracefully piloted his sled to the finish in 51.48 and 51.36 seconds for a combined time of 1:42.84. In a sport measured by hundredths of a second, USA I crossed the finish line 0.17 seconds ahead of the field to further establish their dominance as the fastest four-man team in the world.
"We are at the top of our game, but the game is constantly developing," Holcomb said. "We need to train harder, tweak the sled to go faster, and continue to evolve our equipment to maintain our status as the best team. It won't be easy, because the Germans want their medals back, so it'll be a constant challenge for us to stay on top."
While Germany's decorated Olympic and World Cup champion Andre Lange announced his retirement after the 2010 Games, the German program continues to feed athletes through their system straight to the podium. While team USA I was standing at the start preparing for the final run, the track announcer predicted a German sweep of the race.
"It was motivation hearing that as we were on the line," Holcomb said. "I wanted to put a fork in that, and I made sure we did."
Holcomb's victory denied a German sweep of the medals. Maximilian Arndt teamed with Peter Tiefert, Martin Putze and Alexander Roediger for the silver medal after posting a total time of 1:43.01 (51.59, 51.42). Up-and-coming German pilot Manuel Manchata made a powerful statement by winning the two-man bobsled competition on Thursday in his World Cup debut, and he proved it wasn't a stroke of luck after finishing third tonight. Teamed with Andreas Bredau, Michail Makarow and Christian Poser, Manchata was nipping at the heels of his veteran teammate after sliding a two-run total of 1:43.05 (51.54, 51.51).
The men's four-man bobsled Whistler event is scheduled to air on NBC Universal Sports on Dec. 6 at 6 pm (EST).